Choosing the best gourmet coffee beans requires extensive knowledge about coffee. As with wine, coffee bean connoisseurs use specific terms to define what makes a good cup. Determining the best gourmet coffee beans requires tasting different coffees. One way to experience this is to set up a home coffee tasting, or coffee cupping, to sample various beans. When sipping coffee, consider flavor, body, acidity and aroma.
A kitchen table is ideal because it is near a sink where you will rinse each taster's coffee cup and spoon between varieties. At the grinding position of the table, set up a variety of coffee beans, a coffee grinder, tablespoon and water that is near boiling. Each taster needs a coffee mug, a container to spit tasted coffee into and a large spoon.
Grind all beans until medium coarse. Place two heaping tablespoons (28.5 grams) of ground coffee into each taster's cup. Smell the coffee and assess the sweetness level, which indicates freshness. Pour six ounces (176 milliliters) of near-boiling water into each cup. After three minutes, take the spoon and push risen grounds aside and inhale the aroma of the liquid.
Aroma is the release of fragrant oils when gourmet coffee beans are roasted. Inferior beans rarely have a rich aroma. To determine the best gourmet coffee beans, find an aroma that is fruity, spicy, or even chocolate-like. Unpleasant aroma adjectives include grassy, musty or harsh.
To taste coffee correctly, spoon a little coffee into your mouth and slurp it while inhaling. Air mixed with the coffee disperses it to touch each area of the tongue. Consistency and body are experienced by swirling the coffee around in your mouth. With coffee in your mouth, feel the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Does it feel thick and oily? If so, it has a full body. Gourmet coffee beans can produce light, medium or a full-bodied liquid.
Consider the acidity. Does it tastes bright and sharp in a pleasant way? Common descriptions may include metallic or fruity. Low acidity produces bland coffee. Assess the overall flavor. Is it nutty? Smoky? Or, does it have a negative taste such as a chemical, medicinal or grassy flavor? Flavor is a combination of body, aroma and acidity. Tasters may spit out tasted coffee and rinse their mouths with water before sampling the next variety.
Only two coffee plants, Arabica and Robusta, are used to produce coffee commercially. Arabica is used in single origin coffees, meaning the coffee is 100 percent Arabica beans. Robusta is generally used in blends. Gourmet coffee beans are harvested in Asia, Africa or Central and South America regions.